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Hospitality entrepreneur launches government petition to extend visa programme

Published:  26 January, 2022

In light of the ongoing staff crisis facing the UK's hospitality sector, bar owner Sunny Hodge has raised a petition to extend the Skilled Worker Visa programme, arguing that it should be expanded to include non-managerial on-trade positions such as sommeliers, cocktail bartenders and maitre’ds.

The founder of Aspen & Meursault in Battersea has argued that if the visa programme is open to dancers, choreographers and orchestral musicians, then vital hospitality workers should be included as well.

With a campaign launching tomorrow (27 January), Hodges is aiming to raise awareness of the sector's intense plight, hoping that the Government will recognise the skills needed within the industry and act accordingly to make non-managerial hospitality workers eligible for the list.

“Roles such as sommeliers, cocktail bartenders and maitre’ds are careers that take years to develop skill and knowledge in. They are non-managerial, highly skilled positions where the UK now faces severe shortages due to Brexit and the pandemic,” Hodge said.

“Many of these skilled workers came from the EU and have left Britain due to hospitality closures and industry uncertainty. Our industry is recovering, but many are operationally unable to open due to UK wide skilled labour shortages. Whilst this petition isn’t a silver bullet to solve all our issues, it will go some way to helping bring the industry back from the brink."

Sunny Hodge founded Diogenes the Dog in late 2018, a multi-award winning wine bar and café in Elephant & Castle. He subsequently launched Aspen & Meursault, a low-intervention wine bar which opened in Battersea in August 2021.

As reported by Harpers, hospitality businesses are continuing to lick their wounds after a weak Christmas trading period, with sales in UK pubs, restaurants and bars falling 60% on Christmas Day, according to data released by CGA Strategy.